OL Steps Up

Going into the Ole Miss-Alabama game, one of the big question marks was if the Rebel offensive line could "stand up" to the always-good Alabama defensive line. If the Rebs were to win, that had to happen. It did.

Go on and admit it.

Based on the results of the first four games of the 2014 season, you didn't think the Ole Miss offensive line versus the Alabama defensive line was a good match up, did you?

Don't feel bad. You weren't alone.

Most prognosticators, when analyzing the game beforehand, felt the same way, pointing to that particular area as one they gave the Tide a fairly hefty edge in.

Surprise, surprise.

While the Reb OL did not dominate Alabama's formidable DL, they did neutralize them, they did protect QB Bo Wallace and they did give the Rebels a chance to win the hard-fought game.

"We took a step forward," said OL Coach Matt Luke in a bit of an understatement. "There are things we can do better, but I thought our pass pro was very good."

For junior Right Guard Justin Bell, who has sort of become the unofficial player spokesman for the Rebel OL, it was all a matter of chemistry and trust.

"As I stated in previous interviews, we just had to keep developing our chemistry as a unit," Bell said. "We fought 60 minutes for it and we trusted one another. We took care of our assignments and played with good technique, but to me it was about trusting the guy next to you all being on the same page."

There is a correlation, Justin says, between chemistry and confidence and trust.

"It's hard to be confident if you don't trust the players around you. I trust every one of those guys who put their hand on the ground with me. I have confidence in them. That gives me confidence in my own game," he explained. "To have success against Alabama, especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, is a big step for us in continuing to build chemistry and trust.

"We knew we could do it, but to actually do it is certainly a confidence boost. The trick now is to not let that game go to our heads. It's time to get back to work."

During the game, Aaron Morris, Bell's Jackson Callaway teammate and longtime friend, was injured. Another Callaway product, freshman Rod Taylor, entered the game in Bell's place and Bell slid over to Morris' left guard slot.

Bell said Taylor was a little shaken about Morris, but Justin got him back on track.

"I just told him we had to focus on getting the ball in the end zone and we'd take care of our teammate when we got to the sideline," he noted. "I can't lie, my heart dropped when Aaron went down because of what he went through last year, but once we got to the sideline and found out it wasn't serious, we felt better.

"Rod's a freshman, a true freshman. He's a terrific talent. Part of growing up as a player is staying focused. He learned something during that deal."

(Morris, by the way, is fine and will play against Texas A&M.)

Alabama. Over and done.

Time to move on.

"Our coaches are letting us know this week that success isn't for sale. You can only rent it and the rent is due this Saturday," Bell said. "We know we have to be finished with Alabama or we won't be able to pay the rent against the Aggies."

Bell knows the Rebel OL will have their hands full with Texas A&M's defensive front.

"They have some big guys in the middle and some active guys on the edge. They do a lot of different things up front to try to free themselves to make plays. We respect them just like we did Alabama's DL," Justin noted.

The Rebel offense has to get ready for the noise at Kyle Field, said by some to be the loudest in college football.

"Coming out to the 20 and the Red Zone will be the loudest. The big thing is staying on schedule. We are changing our snap count a little to help us out and we are working hard on our communication up front," he added. "It's really all about focus. It's a mental game when it comes to noise.

"We are preparing for it by piping in noise, but you can't simulate what we will experience. It's all about being mentally prepared and focus."

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